Before planting - Raised Bed Preperation

When we decided to start a organic vegetable garden, using raised bed was a natural choice. Until we complete the raised bed, the drip irrigation cannot be laid. The contractors for drip irrigation were in a holding pattern.

Planting vegetables on a raised bed has many advantages:

  • We form the bed by pulling topsoil from both sides of the bed to increase the bed hight. Topsoil forms when large rocks break down and other organic matter gradually adds to the mix. One inch of topsoil will take as much as 100 years to form. Good quality topsoil contains a rich mix of nutrients necessary for healthy plants. It appears darker than subsoil because of the organic matter it contains. 
An example picture I carried around to explain raised bed

  • Helps manage water logging problem. Water logging occurs whenever the soil is so wet that there is insufficient oxygen in the pore space for plant roots to be able to adequately respire. Lack of oxygen in the root zone of plants causes their root tissues to decompose. 
  • Easy for planting, maintaining and harvesting

Uncle suggested a bed 3 feet wide and 1 feet high. Our horticulture advisers also agreed that's a standard we can use for most vegetables. However getting a mechanized solution to form raised bed in a 2 acre plot was hard. Asked around and visited few farms where they have done it. Either the bed was too short in height or the equipment was a bit far away from Coimbatore to be practical and economical.

Its already getting to end of March - we were loosing time. So we went ahead and hired a local tractor with a 5 plough - the guy removed the middle three and left the outer two ploughs. The distance between them was 3.5 feet. He just ploughed the land with 2 ploughs. Our plan was to then manually dig the path way and add that topsoil to the adjacent beds, increasing the height.While making the pathway we would make sure the bed measures approximately 3 feet width. 

After ploughing with 2 ploughs

It wasn't a bad plan, but it was lot more manual work than we imagined. Initially the caretaker and I tried to create a sample to show the workers we were trying to hire to prepare the beds. 

We had some contracting guys come and quote huge amounts. Though the days were passing by, the caretaker and I worked early in the mornings to work on two beds of 80 feet length each day. My physical work started with trench digging for sprinklers and then continued on when we spread the cow manure. But bed making was hard because of the precision it needs and the scorching heat (even at early hours of the day). 

My mother's cousin who walks everyday in the area saw these hard working days and sent a labor to help us out. That guy asked for a reasonable contract amount and I readily agreed. He and his hard working wife worked amazingly fast and finished the work in 3 days. Though it wasn't precise - not even close- but at least the work was done. 

Now the drip irrigation can be started. We also wanted to get a walking path in the middle of the field to help us access all the beds - for planting, maintaining and harvesting.

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